In a press conference on Monday, October 18, Bolivian government minister Eduardo del Castillo said that authorities have identified the paramilitary personnel who took part in a conspiracy to assassinate Luis Arce who had just been elected president in the October 2020 elections. At least two persons named as suspects in the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse in July may also have been involved in the plot against Arce, according to the minister.
The revelation comes months after an investigation was published by The Intercept detailing how members of the Bolivian armed forces and the de facto government led by Jeanine Añez discussed possible actions involving US mercenaries to prevent Arce from taking office. Arce, the candidate of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), won the presidential elections in the first round on October 18, 2020, just a year after the start of the coup d’état against Evo Morales.
The investigation released by The Intercept on June 12, 2021, is based on verified phone recordings and emails of the former minister of defense Luis Fernando López. In a phone call with a person identified by The Intercept as Joe Pereira, a former civilian administrator with the US army who was based in Bolivia, López said it was necessary for Bolivians to “rise up” and “block the Arce administration.”
The two, with the help of a translator, “Cyber Rambo,” identified as Luis Suárez, a former US army sergeant of Bolivian descent, discussed bringing members of the US special forces to Bolivia and passing them off as private military contractors using shell contracts with Bolivian-based companies. “Cyber Rambo” is known for having created an algorithm which promoted tweets with anti-Evo Morales messages during the coup d’état in 2019. In the conversations, López indicated that he had already begun talking to high-ranking officials in the Bolivian armed forces about the plans.
In Monday’s press conference, Castillo declared, “We believe that the way to resolve our conflicts is not violence and much less so by bringing hitmen to our Plurinational State. We have been made aware, through information we have access to, that Mr. López Julio had the objective of holding on to power by killing Bolivians and hiring foreign mercenaries.”
Among the foreign mercenaries that they have identified so far, Castillo highlighted the name of German Rivera García, who was in Bolivia in October 2020 and was recently arrested in Haiti for the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse. Other mercenaries mentioned include Enrico Galindo Arias, Ronal Ramírez Salamanca, Sam Brown, Ernest H. DeLong, Davion Covell Hart, Joe Pereira, and Arcángel Pretel Ortiz. Ortiz has also been implicated in the killing of Moïse as his company CTU Security, based in Miami and run by a member of the Venezuelan opposition Antonio Emanuel Intriago Valera, is suspected to have hired the 20 Colombian mercenaries that carried out the act.
According to Bolivia’s Government Minister, the mercenaries would have received a payment of around $125,000 for their involvement.
“In Bolivia, there was an attempt to commit magnicide and to threaten the life of our president,” Castillo stated at the press conference. “It is not a coincidence that [the person who] is now detained in Haiti for having participated in the assassination of their president, was in Bolivia days before and after the elections and that Fernando López…had constant contact with this kind of irregular and paramilitary groups through subcontractor companies with experience in combat in wars like Iraq, Afghanistan, and others,” he stated.
Castillo concluded the press conference declaring, “We are not only the Movement Towards Socialism, we are the Government of all Bolivians and we will do everything possible…to maintain order and preserve the life of every Bolivian.”
The investigations in this case are set to continue, as several members of the Bolivian Armed Forces and National Police also may be implicated.